Charles Ernest Marsters

Charles Ernest Marsters
Born in Kings Lynn in 1888, Charles was the eldest of two sons born to Charles, a monumental mason foreman, and Elizabeth (née Seydal). By 1901 the family had moved to St Ives, living at  Newchurch Terrace. At age 14 years Charles started working for R. M Osborne of St Ives as a brewer's clerk and went on to be manager. Also a member of All Saints Choir, Charles sung and played the mandolin at concerts all over the county.

Charles married Hilda Geeson in 1909 and moved to Hemingford Grey. Their daughter, Beryl, was born in 1910. Charles's father was an instructor to the St Ives Volunteer Regiment as reported in the Hunts Post of 23 April 1915. He was promoted to Lieutenant as reported on 14 September 1917.

Charles was still working in St Ives in 1916. He appealed against call up because of his occupation, as reported on 1 December 1916. Finally enlisting with the 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards, it's uncertain when he arrived in France. The Welsh Guards were continuously in battle throughout 1917 and 1918, so Charles would certainly have seen action in the trenches.

Welsh Guards in the front trenches
Welsh Guards in the front trenches
As early as September 1918 the German authorities knew the War was lost. By October many German soldiers had had enough and there were mass desertions. The final Allied push towards the German border began on 17 October. The German Navy mutinied on 29 October when ordered to launch a massive attack on the Royal Navy in an attempt to sabotage armistice negotiations that had already commenced. Nevertheless fighting continued.

On the night of 2 November Charles' Battalion marched towards Villers Pol, singing to the accompaniment of their brass band. An advance of seven miles commenced 4 November at 6.00am in pitch darkness towards Bavay and Maubeuge. In spite of a couple of brisk engagements along the way, by 6.00pm they reached a line east of Preux-au-Sart.

Progress was over roads choked with the signs of an advancing victorious army; motor and horse-drawn transport of every kind, guns, ambulances and marching men. By evening they reached Amfroipret, where they came under considerable shelling, incurring heavy casualties.

At 5.00am on Wednesday 6 November 1918 Charles' Battalion led the attack on the village of Bouvignies. Once the village was captured there were further engagements as remnants of German forces were mopped up. Later in the day the Battalion was ordered to stand fast. The number of casualties meant there were insufficient men for further engagements.

Charles was one of the casualties of the day. Hit by a machine gun bullet in the chest, he died a short time after whilst being carried on a stretcher, aged 30 years. Five days later the Amnesty was declared and the War was over. Charles is buried at Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery, France. His wife requested the inscription on his headstone to be 'Death divides, but memory still clings'. His death was reported by the Hunts Post on 22 November 1918. He left behind a widow and young daughter.

Charles' brother, Victor, also served in the war, as reported on 8 February 1918.

Do you have a photograph of Charles or any additional information? If so, please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
Click any of the links below to view original source materials.
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census
War diary, 1st Battalion, Welsh Guards
Medal Rolls Index Card
Commemorative Certificate

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